Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting

Every once in a while, I’ll be asked to bake treats for various occasions. I’ve made cheesecakes, cupcakes, and cakes mostly. I had the privilege of being asked to bake for my co-worker’s daughter’s 1st birthday party, and was challenged to find a vanilla bean cupcake, and pair it with a strawberry frosting. Vanilla bean? As in use a real vanilla bean, and cut and scrape out the vanilla seeds? But that’s scary! The fear of figuring out vanilla beans was coming to a close for me.

I attempted to try the “cheap” route for vanilla cupcakes, as I wanted to keep the costs down for my co-worker, so my first option was a boxed vanilla cake mix and adding vanilla extract to make it more vanilla-like. Let me tell you, they weren’t even worth bringing into work for a taste test. I’ve used the vanilla boxed mixes many times, and been okay with them, but this time, it just wasn’t working for me.

I moved on to my second option, which was using real vanilla beans in the recipe instead of just using vanilla extract. I was terrified. I wanted to turn around and run. How the heck do you get the seeds out of the vanilla bean?! Where do you even get vanilla beans? I want my mommy! (Okay, okay. It wasn’t THAT bad!) After asking my friend Meghan over at Meg’s Everyday Indulgence ( Go check out her blog! She’s absolutely amazing!) where to find the vanilla beans, I got all my ingredients together and put on my big girl pants to conquer my fear of vanilla beans.

The recipe I tried was fantastic. It’s super easy, as you put all the ingredients in the mixing bowl, then mix, and you’re done. It’s really as easy as that! I’m all for a one bowl recipe! Aaaannnndddd, getting the seeds out of the vanilla bean was way easier than I thought! All the over-reacting for nothing. I can be such a drama queen- just ask Ryan. I brought in the cupcakes the day after I made them, and they were a hit among all who received one. The vanilla bean added so much flavor, and the denseness of the cupcake was a delight.

Since my co-worker said she definitely wanted the cupcakes for the party, I set off to purchase the Cupcake Courier I’ve had my eyes on for transporting 36 of the 48 cupcakes I was to make. How functional and great is this thing? It even allows for you to transport cakes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I paired the vanilla bean cupcake with a strawberry mascarpone frosting, and think they turned out great! Happy 1st birthday Payson!:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

(This recipe is not something I created. I accidentally threw out both this and the frosting blog information)

Makes 12-16 cupcakes

1 2/3 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt (opt)

1 c. sugar

1 stick butter, melted

1 egg

1/4 c. sour cream

3/4 c. milk (I used skim and they turned out great!)

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard muffin tin with cupcake liners. Combine all ingredients in a food processor (with blade attachment) or mixer bowl. Fill cupcake liners slightly more than halfway full.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until center cupcakes bounce back when touched. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting

1/4 c. softened butter

1- 8 oz container mascarpone, at room temperature (I couldn’t find mascarpone, so I used Neuchâtel Cheese. I would believe that cream cheese can also be substituted)

1/2 c. fresh strawberries, pureed

2 Tbsp. strawberry jam

4-5 c. powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer until soft and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Add the strawberries and jam. Mix until combined. Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time until the frosting has the sweetness and consistency you desire ( I ended up using around 7 c.). If your frosting is not stiff enough to pipe, add more powdered sugar. Note that this may not have the same stiffness/form as typical frosting when piped.

Use right away, or refrigerate until ready to use.

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Plain Cheesecake {Toppings optional!}

From a young age, cheesecake has been a dessert that’s been present in my life. I remember going to the local street fair when I was in elementary school with my mom, sister, and aunt and getting to have a bite or two of the “cheesecake on a stick” we always purchased. It was always such a treat to get a bite, and then it’d be gone and we’d have to wait a year to have another bite. What I wouldn’t give for a taste of the cheesecake on a stick again! I don’t think they sell them anymore. 😦

Nowadays, I don’t have to wait for a year to go around to have cheesecake. I make one every so often, and my mom has a wine and dessert party each year that boasts all sorts of cheesecakes. I don’t think a plain cheesecake is on her menu though, as it’d be too boring for all the ladies that attend!

This cheesecake recipe is very versatile with different flavors and toppings that you can add. I don’t think I’ve ever had it plain, and it’s been my go-to recipe for years! There’s always some sort of candy topping or fruit drizzled on top. The sky’s the limit on what you choose to add, or if you’d rather enjoy it just as it is without a darn thing on top!

Plain Cheesecake

1 to 1/1/2 c. finely crushed Oreos

3 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened

3/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. flour

1/2 c. sour cream

1 tsp. vanilla

3 eggs

*1 c. of mini-chips, coarsely chopped Oreos, Snickers, etc will be needed if you want to have a candy topped cheesecake

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees if using a silver 9 inch springform pan, or to 300 degrees if using a dark, non-stick pan.

Mix Oreos and butter in a food processor until just combined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firmly press mixture onto the bottom of the springform pan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bake 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, beat cream cheese, sugar, and flour in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add sour cream and vanilla; mix well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add eggs, one at a time, mixing on low-speed after each addition, until just blended.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’d prefer your candy to be inside the cheesecake, stir in 1 c. of candy into the batter and pour into the pan over the crust. If you’d prefer it on top or with no topping at all, pour just the plain batter into a pan over the crust.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bake 55 minutes or until center is almost set (Batter will jiggle a little. This is normal, and it will set once refrigerated).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Run knife or metal spatula around rim of pan to loosen cake; cool before removing rim of pan. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle toppings on cheesecake- as much or as little as you’d like. I like to cut up the cheesecake into slices, then melt chocolate and drizzle on top of the cheesecake and candy. Yum!

BBQ Chicken Braid

I feel like I’ve been away from here for a while…a LONG while. The last few weeks have been hectic. Ryan and I went on vacation for a week to Rapid City, SD to visit friends who live there. We had a blast, drove a lot (18 hours just to get there and back, plus more driving to get to attractions and state parks), and have been trying to play catch-up since we returned. Like most people, I need a vacation after my vacation! Below is a picture from our lantern tour in Jewel Cave. So much fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since life’s been so crazy lately, it’s nice to prepare meals that don’t take me much time. The BBQ Chicken Braid is just that. You can prepare it with either frozen or homemade dough, and once you start putting the braid together, the work will fly by. Another great thing about this recipe is that you can switch it up to use whatever ingredients you want on it. You could do buffalo chicken/bleu cheese, ham and pineapple, taco meat, veggie, etc. The possibilities definitely don’t stop at bbq chicken!

I found the recipe at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe. If you’re looking for recipes that are easy, delicious, and family favorites, you need to check out this blog! Mel has so many wonderful recipes Ryan and I have tried and absolutely love.

BBQ Chicken Braid

*Makes two braids -we always cut both the braid and french bread roll recipes in half to make just one*

1 recipe of Mel’s french bread rolls, OR a frozen bread loaf, thawed

2 cups shredded, cooked chicken

1 red onion, sliced into thin half moons

1 1/2 c. bbq sauce

1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese

*Depending on your preference, you may want to use more/less of the onions, bbq sauce, and cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the french bread roll recipe has gone through the first rise, split the dough into two parts. If you made a half-recipe, omit this step. Lightly cover one portion and set aside. Roll the other portion into an 11 x 17-inch rectangle ( I roll mine directly on a non-stick cookie sheet).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut 1-inch strips in towards the center, starting on the long sides.

There should be a solid strip about 3 inches wide down the center, with the cut strips forming a fringe down each side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spread half of the bbq sauce down the center strip. Top with the chicken, onions, and cheese. I also topped with more bbq sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fold the strips over filling, alternating strips from each side and pressing them into the dough on the opposite side, forming a braid.  Don’t worry if this part it’s perfect. As you can see, mine is far from perfect!  Pinch or twist to seal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your braid isn’t already on a cookie sheet, transfer dough to a cookie sheet. Let the braid rest 15 minutes. While it is resting, follow the same steps above for the second portion of the dough if you are making two braids. Bake the first braid for 15-20 minutes (while the second braid is resting), until golden brown and bread is baked through. Remove from the oven and bake the second braid.

Let the braid rest for 5 minutes. Cut braid into sections using a serrated knife. (Sorry for the below picture. It’s not the best representation of the BBQ Chicken braid. I had to snap a photo quick before Ryan snagged a few of the pieces!)